Read an Excerpt
I Love You Rituals are delightful interactions and games that adults can play with children from infancy through eight years of age and that send the message of unconditional acceptance. Unconditional acceptance is love.
Imagine arriving home to be greeted by your spouse. His or her eyes light up as you enter the house. You begin to talk about your day, and you receive your spouse's complete attention. Simultaneously, your spouse begins to give you a deep hand massage that sends invisible cellular messages coursing like radio waves throughout your body. The messages are, “You are safe, you are adored, all is well.” In this loving state, you become attuned to the wonders of life and the passion of living, and the world becomes a positive place where each person has untold value. What a wonderful interaction that would be. What a powerful display of love. This greeting sure beats the heck out of, “What's for dinner?” or “Did you pick up the dry cleaning?” I Love You Rituals are gifts of love you can give your children. Since what you give to others, you strengthen in yourself, they are gifts you can give yourself.
Take a deep breath and read the following aloud:
A wonderful woman lived in a shoe.
She had so many children
She knew exactly what to do.
She held them,
She rocked them,
And tucked them in bed.
“I love you, I love you,”
Is what she said.
Reflect on your emotions. How do you feel after reading therhyme? Now take another deep breath and read the original Mother Goose rhyme:
There was an old lady who lived in a shoe
She had so many children
she didn't know what to do.
She fed them some broth without any bread
And whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.
Reflect on your feelings once again. What word would you use to describe how you feel after reading this rhyme? This simple exercise vividly demonstrates that what you see, hear, and sense affects your brain, and your brain governs your physiology, your feelings, and your behavior. It is time to create new rituals, rituals that reflect our worth and extend love to others.
It is one thing to revise the old Mother Goose rhymes, but I Love You Rituals are much more than that. They are rituals that send the message of unconditional love to children. Unconditional love is something we all seek to find and hope to give. This unconditional love is sent in what I call “child language” through I Love You Rituals. It is sent in a game, in words, and through touch, and it is sent repeatedly. The playfulness of the game is crucial, for in play, children and adults are totally present, absorbed in the moment. Think about watching your children play. They become so engrossed in their actions, you can't get them to notice you or the call to supper. Pay attention to yourself when you play. For some of us, reading is play. We become deeply drawn into the story, easily staying up to 2:00 a.m., losing track of time. Those of us who enjoy tennis or other forms of play lose ourselves in the activity. In this flow of activity, we find a precious part of ourselves and feel rejuvenated.
Over my twenty-five years of working with children and families, I have noticed a growing undercurrent of change. Viewed from a small perspective, this change could appear disruptive or negative; yet from a bigger picture, its beauty is unfolding. From a microscopic view we see increases in juvenile delinquency, suicide, rebellion, depression, apathy, and drug addictions. In young children, we see enormous increases in hyperactivity, impulsiveness, power struggles, demanding behavior, and willful fits of displeasure when they do not get what they want. In young adults, brilliance and genius are budding, yet a moral compass is missing. Busy, frantic parents chase dreams and miss moments with each other and with their children. Others work to make ends meet and spend little time with each other. Material goods seduce us more than kindness. News headlines offer tragedy after tragedy, so that denial becomes a defense against hopelessness. But under all these struggles, all these cries for help, is a rumble, a wave building in the ocean of life, ready to crest and carry us all forward. This rumble is our intense, true desire for connection with each other. We long to belong. We strive to offer and receive unconditional love. This desire to be loved and loveable unites us all.
We are shifting from being families and communities based on roles to groups based on healthy relationships. The role of wife had certain duties, the role of husband had required obligations. The role of the child to be seen and not heard was paramount. These roles of days gone by offered security. Yet that security was riddled with oppression, lack of freedom, and rigid rituals that served the powerful, not the many. The roles provided security without connection. These roles had to crumble; they needed to fall. In this process, turmoil, crisis, pain, confusion, and hopelessness reign as families scramble to hold together and marriages fail more often than not. However, our souls seek to overcome these strivings and are ready to connect with each other in a different capacity, on an equal footing. To move from roles to relationships, we have traveled from self-hatred, shame, and guilt to acceptance of ourselves and each other. We progressed from the rigidity of sameness to tolerance of differences, from fearing change to embracing its potential. We are shifting from living in the past or the future to living in the present. We are returning to love. On the outside, it looks like the end of the world is coming, but on the inside, we are pulling together as never before. This book is about getting together. It is about reconnecting with ourselves and our children. In these cute activities and rituals you will be conducting with your children, you will find something very precious'yourself. These I Love You Rituals are needed now in our culture. They are our bridge from roles to relationships.
One guiding truth about life is that what you offer to others, you strengthen within yourself. Stop reading this book for a moment. Think about your children and how much you love them. If they are at school or a room nearby, just wish them well. From your mind and heart, allow the feelings to overflow and send them a silent blast of love. Now, how do you feel yourself? Probably warm and cozy. You offered your children love and security by wishing them well, and you yourself welled up with love. The same is true when we offer criticism and blame. When we see what is lacking in others, what they are not doing, and what is wrong with the world, we simultaneously feel lacking. You cannot go through your day seeing what is wrong and go to bed happy. Self-esteem does not come from how others see you, but from how you see others. Thus we can see the power of the Golden Rule. It is golden because it affects both parties. See the beauty in others, and you can see the beauty in yourself. By conducting these I Love You Rituals with children, not only do you boost your child's brain potential, but you heal your old wounds. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, stepdads and stepmoms all find love for themselves as they extend love to their children. I Love You Rituals ground you in the present moment, connect you with your children, and help you reestablish and maintain a safe place within from which love radiates.